April 21, 2018
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Rockport high school students talk to younger kids about pressure to use drugs, alcohol

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

ROCKPORT, Maine — About 15 students at Camden Hills Regional High know their school has a drug problem, so in addition to taking vows not to drink or do drugs during their high school careers, they are trying to encourage younger students to do the same.

The Wolfpack is a new student group that is working with the local middle school to talk to students about drugs and alcohol.

“We’re just a group of normal kids who decided against drugs. We want to prove there are kids who don’t use drugs and alcohol,” said Camilla Walker, 17, of Lincolnville.

“Our mission is to provide a good role model for younger kids,” added Cailand Sweeting, 17, of Rockport.

The teenagers have been visiting the middle school’s seventh-grade class since March. The teacher leaves the room and the high-schoolers talk to the seventh-graders about their experiences.

“In middle school my friend group was a lot different than it is now because those friends decided to use alcohol and drugs. I thought they’d be my friends through high school,” Sweeting said. “It’s been difficult, but a growing experience.”

“Same with me,” Walker said. “I feel we weren’t ready for all this in middle school. They talked to us, but it wasn’t effective. That’s what we’re trying to do by sharing our stories.”

The Wolfpack started through the school’s substance abuse committee last November. After a few months of planning, the student group grew from five to 15 so far.

The idea is to encourage the next generation of Camden Hills Windjammers to be drug-free.

Earlier this school year, school officials found bath salts in the high school.

“But we’re not a school full of crazy drug addicts,” said Eben Kopp, 17, of Camden. “It was one kid — that’s not a pervasive problem.”

It’s marijuana and alcohol that his peers are using, he said.

In 2010, about 80 percent of Camden Hills seniors said they drank or had drunk alcohol. More than half said they had smoked marijuana, according to the statewide poll of high school students.

To the students in the Wolfpack, it seems like those numbers are low estimates.

“I thought it would be easy to stay away from it. But it isn’t. It’s everywhere. Everywhere. Everyone is doing it,” said Autumn Coyle, 17, of Rockport.

“Just read the paper. Our friends are in there,” added Kopp.

For Coyle, abstaining from drugs is particularly important.

“I would like to give a good role model to my little brother. And I am. Someone asked him to do drugs in downtown Camden and he said no. He’s a freshman,” she said.

The rest of the group has their own reasons. Beckah Hilt, 15, from Appleton went to a basketball meeting early in high school and heard a senior talk about how he met his goal of being drug- and alcohol-free all four years.

“I thought that was a cool achievement and I wanted to do it,” Hilt said.

Almost all the students in the Wolfpack are underclassmen who plan to stick with the program next year. The team’s adviser, Chris Audet, hopes to increase the group to 30 students.

The 15 who now make up the group come from all different backgrounds, he said.

That’s part of what makes it fun.

“I didn’t know a lot of these people when I joined,” Coyle said. “It’s really fun.”

“And it’s nice to be with people who make the same choices as you,” Walker said.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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